The dog that didn’t bark

by John Quiggin on November 15, 2016

My election commentary in Inside Story is about

The dog that didn’t bark … the (assumed) majority of “decent Republicans” to whom Clinton sought to appeal. Although most observers (including me) assumed that many of them would turn against Trump, hardly any did so



Lord 11.15.16 at 3:51 am

Eight years of intense partisanship and that comes as a surprise?


Bob Zannelli 11.15.16 at 4:26 am

Decent republicans? That’s almost an oxymoron.


Sebastian H 11.15.16 at 5:02 am

The short answer is “Supreme Court”. The long answer is we’ve let the Court become far too powerful because instead of going through the amendment process we just push through a fifth judge. It has made it so we just can’t stomach the idea of the wrong President putting a judge on the Court to change its ideological makeup.


Alan White 11.15.16 at 5:15 am

This was an excellent piece which allied with Joan Williams’ incisive commentary in the Harvard BR makes for thinking about this election as a grow-up pill for the US. I concur that Trump failures might well make for better days in future–though I do despair for the longer-term effects of federal and Supreme Court appointments.


Chris "merian" W. 11.15.16 at 5:23 am

Okay. Though I’m not yet ready to go with your optimism, and am missing three things:

1. Why didn’t the dog bark? The tribal allegiance vastly exceeded the classes that can legitimately point to their ruin being caused by whatever it is that’s broken down.

2. An easy answer would be racism, or white supremacy, or a backlash against the Obama-style multi-hued America, yet your text still sounds very white. During this campaign, I’ve been following new writers and/or journalists, and only a minority of the ones I’ve come to appreciate are white and male. Speaking with excessive generality, I tend to find more nuance from the POC than from $GENERIC_WHITE_COMMENTATOR. Would you agree with, for example, Jamelle Bouie’s very first (and very raw) reaction, in which he said “we thought we had a consensus, but we find we had a reprieve” (quoting from memory)?

3. What does this mean for strategy?


nastywoman 11.15.16 at 7:03 am

– all true – if there wouldn’t have been the following bark from a few month ago:

‘I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states…
…When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan…
In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he’s expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states.
And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November’.

And as this bark was so utmost precise – and ‘the dog’ who barked has become -(together with Elizabeth Warren) our ‘Guide Dogs’ -(trying to add some comical relief) this American erection has gone down in history as the erection where Americas workers took back their country –
-(as also F…face von Clownstick had barked)


Peter T 11.15.16 at 9:55 am

Well, people certainly did not vote on “values”, and it’s hard to see that large numbers voted on any rational calculation of their material interests (believing Trump’s promises is hardly rational). Nor is it easy to see what being Republican actually means. It’s not a coherent ideology, nor a confluence of interests, but more like a general feeling that the modern world sucks, and somebody else is to blame.

I wish I could share the optimism. Egalitarianism gets most of its drive when the elite need mass support (usually to fend off rival elites). Technology, globalisation and the end of mass warfare have eroded that need to vanishing point in western societies. They will need mass support to cope with severe environmental crises in a few decades, but the recognition of that is a long way off, and further off now than ever.


magari 11.15.16 at 11:38 am

It’s hard to say whether mobility between the centers right and left is over. The reason being that Clinton is so divisive. Imagining a more anodyne Democrat running in her place (say Kerry) makes the “mobile Republican” sound more plausible. On the other hand, Obama repeatedly (!) moderated his positions to the point of betraying his own party’s historical core values and yet could not get Republicans to come to the center with him on legislation. Republican Congresspeople are not Republican voters, but they do set an example — obstruct Democratic success at all costs, do not compromise, do not cooperate.


Salemicus 11.15.16 at 12:03 pm

Part of the problem is the radical disconnect between Democrat descriptions of Trump as a unique threat, and the concrete actions of the Clinton campaign. If Trump really were Hitler, and stopping him at all costs (rather than partisan advantage) were really the priority, then Clinton should have run a “national unity” ticket:
* choose a mainstream Republican as VP.
* pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare.
* nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.
* etc.

Instead, Clinton ran as a partisan Democrat, with a partisan agenda. Maybe because they didn’t really see Trump as a unique threat (see the post-election blather that the worst thing about Trump is he will co-sign Ryan’s agenda). Maybe because they didn’t think Trump could possibly win, so his candidacy was a great opportunity to advance their partisan agenda (see the pre-election blather about all the long-time Democrat priorities Clinton could carry out).

And, to be clear, she had every right to do so. But that just turned it into a normal, partisan election, ensuring that Republicans would (mostly) unify behind the Republican candidate. And so a mainstream Republican as VP, repeal and replace, pro-life Supreme Court justices, etc – all the things that Democrats could never-ever-ever sign up to as the price to peel Republicans away from Trump – are going to happen anyway.


Lee A. Arnold 11.15.16 at 12:06 pm

The only lesson for me is that for emotional reasons, a country can destroy itself.

Which I already knew from history, but I always forget, because I had emotional problems as a young adult and I spent decades until they were cured. As a result I always tend to assume that everybody around me is on their own even keel because they have experienced the same, when of course many of them are suppressing uncured emotional dysfunctions of their own. And are going to live and die without realizing what they have now wrought.

And even if they were all to suddenly wake up emotionally (an impossibility), they scarce have the intellectual capacity to realize what this election means:

Investment finance will now start slowly to flee from the United States, and the US won’t be able to finance itself. Why? Because the Chinese are starting their own global free-trade organization; they announced it a day or two after the US election. The perfect moment, and clearly they have long been preparing, by getting out of Treasuries, sending trade reps to every country in the world, and building their own islands for forward naval bases in the Pacific.

International investors will — slowly, then quickly — begin to find it easier to make profits in developing global trade, from OTHER locales that agree to the Chinese trade pact. And it can be done. The Chinese no longer need the US for advanced development. Trump convinced his supporters that he would snooker the Chinese, but the reality is obviously the other way around.

Americans, thinking they are the indispensable consumer market, are going to be left out, unless they accept the Chinese terms, quite publicly. President Xi, yesterday: “President Trump is going to have to compromise.” The Chinese have obviously done the same psychological profiling that Hillary did to bait Trump in the debates.

Thus almost every area in the world including Mexico, South America, Africa, the Middle East will find it possible to greatly embarrass the United States with a supreme narcissist in charge — without firing a shot — and, after a century of indignities and deprivations, they will enjoy it immensely. (Unless Trump starts a shooting war in the Pacific, and don’t count that out. He’s looking at Iraq War neocon John Bolton for Secretary of State — how’s that for you, you “Hillary-is-bloodthirsty” leftwingers?)

Inside the US, the decline in the standard of living vis-a-vis the most advanced countries will accelerate greatly. Maybe the US can join the Brexiters in a big flea market, and swap old vinyl Beatles albums. The only way to stanch it temporarily is a “hyuge” infrastructure package, but: who will finance it, how will it get paid back, and at what rates of interest?

I won’t bother you with the likeliest macro-dynamics of that, but international investors think that they themselves will eventually get stuck with the tax bill. Bye bye!

So in the wake of the Chinese announcement, the tenor of commentaries from financial journalists in other capitals is, “Why did the U.S. just cut its own throat?” — “Cut its own throat” as in, “permanently”.

Really it is the final end of the empire here. And the ones least prepared to deal with it are the Trump voters. That gets us back to the emotions. After an short spurt of deficit-financed GDP growth, there will be a return to the growing frustrations in the US, and so the US will be increasingly susceptible to the thrashings of its domestic fascists. In your head, zombie, zombie.

As an exchange student said yesterday: “Get out, NOW.”

Meanwhile the Trump voters have chosen someone who is unbelievably, totally, amazingly out-to-lunch. This came yesterday, from the Wall Street Journal:

“During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.”

Trump only trusts his friends. Problem there is, anybody with a world-class brain removed themselves from his orbit years ago. He’s already put Myron Ebell at the EPA and asked for security clearance for his kids. Yet even if the kids realize what’s going on (a really big “if”) — what are they going to do? It’s going to be amateur hour in the West Wing. He won’t be getting much real information, and then, he won’t understand what he gets.

Thanks, Republicans!!!


Layman 11.15.16 at 12:26 pm

Shorter Salemicus @9: “The way to defeat right-wing nuttery is to surrender to it.”


nastywoman 11.15.16 at 12:37 pm

‘Investment finance will now start slowly to flee from the United States, and the US won’t be able to finance itself.’

You mean there will be a yuuge economical boom – not unlike the boom another Fascistic Monster initiated 83 year ago in a country far, far away from ‘the homeland’?

and @9
‘If Trump really were Hitler’…
and he also would stimulate the economy in the way Hitler did – America in four years would have an unemployment rate of 0 percent.

And that’s the tragedy of this whole ‘deal’ – as it is still – and always will be ‘the economy stupid’ in the US – my fellow Americans will get ‘accustomed’ to the Racist Birther – as he will – without any doubt make America (economically) ‘great’ again –
-(how can’t he – by probably initiating a double stimulus of infrastructure investment galore and tax cuts for the rich?)

And (Rich) America probably will thank him – probably just the same way they once thanked a much, much ‘nicer’ President called Reagan.


Mike Huben 11.15.16 at 1:09 pm

I think pretty much everyone except got the election dismally wrong.

Trump played the “strict father” archetype to the hilt, while Hillary played the “nurturing parent” so strongly that while I was extremely moved, it was also very obvious that it would have no appeal to most republican voters.

Trump’s persona was “I don’t follow the rules, I make my own, what I’m saying now are the rules now”. That’s why he (and Sarah Palin) have been able to say such outrageous things, and why they were able to sweep aside their republican challengers. If a voter wants change, they don’t want to be told it has to be done within rules, they want it DONE even if the rules have to be broken. That’s why Trump isn’t hurt by changing his position: he is showing his power to make rules. Ted Cruz whimpered when Trump broke the rules and insulted his family, so Trump won. Hillary attempted to break rules with the “basket of deplorables”, but backed down, so Trump won. Hillary was so obviously constrained by political correctness rules and being beholden to Democratic party and other supporter’s interests that she could not credibly look powerful to those who want “strict father” governance to solve their problems. Trump’s entire act was “I gotta dick so big that I can swing it anywhere I want, and nobody will be able to stop me from solving your problems by swinging it.”

That will make things very difficult for democrats in 2020. The closest I can think of for a solution is an Elizabeth Warren/Oprah Winfrey ticket. Oprah is a self-made media billionaire, who has been able to do things her way and made her fortune without the crap Trump does. Neither of them would have to sit there and take Trump’s crap. Both are political outsiders. Warren would mobilize the angry demographic, though she would have to yield on a few of the conservative points such as gun control. (For that last, make a utilitarian calculation. NRA ideas of gun control would cost us thousands of lives per year, but ability to improve Obamacare would save hundreds of thousands.)


John Quiggin 11.15.16 at 1:38 pm

In keeping with the argument of the OP, I’m not going to publish any comments on why some Democrats switched or didn’t vote. That’s been discussed more than adequately already.


Layman 11.15.16 at 2:01 pm

Republican leaders since Nixon have worked to attract racists and bigots to the GOP. Republican leaders since Reagan have worked to make bigotry acceptable in society, to fan the flames of nationalism, and to cultivate anti-science, anti-knowledge, anti-fact positions on a range of issues. The idea that a candidate who epitomizes those qualities – the inheritor of that legacy – would be so shocking to the GOP constituency that large numbers of them would turn against the party seems, in hindsight, to be deeply wrong.

In the same vein, GOP policies have been failing the working class, the poor, the disadvantaged for decades; yet their voters seldom if ever blame the failure on those policies. I doubt very much that many of Trump’s voters will turn on him (or the GOP) when his tenure just leads to more misery for them. Bad economy? Blame Obama’s systematic destruction of America, which necessarily will take a long time to fix. Factory jobs not coming back? Blame Obama for sending them away in the first place, and promise again to bring them back. Can’t get the wall built? Blame Congress, which is perfectly safe since the GOP is gerrymandered into more or less permanent majority in the House. Another terrorist attack? Not our fault, it was Obama who destroyed the military and made us Not Safe and did all the emboldening. The ads write themselves.


anymouse1288 11.15.16 at 2:06 pm

Yea. You called that. I was foolish. I should have known. I mean Ted Kennedy 1980. Trump’s character defects should have been disqualifying but personal character does not matter at all. In any way shape or form.


Alesis 11.15.16 at 3:13 pm

I asked in an earlier discussion if anyone could think of a political context in which racism was actually a net negative.

I think we quite plainly overestimated the revulsion white voters would have towards a man who routinely abused non white people. We certainly overestimated the revulsion women voters would feel towards a candidate who routinely abused women. The fact is what Hillary thought would drive people away from Trump may well have driven them closer.

We assume that because we view as certain kind of behavior as repulsive other would as well. In fact they simply don’t share our ethical priors


James Wimberley 11.15.16 at 3:54 pm

In the linked OP:
“According to exit polls, nearly 90 per cent of self-described Republicans voted for Trump..” Exit polls are of voters. We don’t know anything about the Republicans, and Republican-leaning independents, who didn’t vote. Maybe Trump turned off a fair number of these (as in Mormon Utah), and compensated with racists who had not voted for Romney. I’ve yet to see an analysis of non-voters. Without it, conclusions like JQ’s are on thin ice.

The USA is a low-turnout democracy: about 58% of the electorate this time. Australia has 81% in national elections with compulsory voting, Italy and Belgium 90% without it, Malta an eye-rubbing 94% without a Kim on the ballot. The low basic turnout presumably magnifies the effect of small swings in sentiment and turnout.

That said, JQ’s explanation (“It was the same Republicans, stupid”) has Occam’s razor going for it, and I suggest should stand as the default until disproved. The problem for the Democrats is to get their tribe to turn out on the day. Next time, as JQ says, will be even harder. But the hard-fought win in Nevada, against the tide, shows how it can be done.


efcdons 11.15.16 at 4:39 pm

Sebastian H @3

SCOTUS was in hindsight a masterstroke by McConnell. I don’t know if it was purposeful (in that he would have done the same regardless of who was the gop nominee), but by leaving the seat open it forced GOP voters to “choose a side”. Not just choose trump, but to choose whose side they are on for decades to come because the justices will be there for decades. So trump’s negatives were minimized by the huge importance and long lasting nature of the consequences of Clinton winning (and gop losing the senate).

The other reasons are also good. I, for one, thought this election was going to see the resurgence of the split ticket voter and was upset at Clinton’s “Summer of the Moderate Republican” because I thought it was leaving Dem senate candidates out to twist in the wind. I was very wrong. If this election didn’t encourage split ticket voting then I can’t believe it will ever be coming back.


Jake Gibson 11.15.16 at 4:57 pm

Character matters if you are a Democrat or a liberal.
Not so much if you are a Republican or a conservative.


cassander 11.15.16 at 5:44 pm

Trump got fewer votes than Romney, and a lot more votes from rural whites. the decent republicans did bark, they just did it by staying home and not voting. That they could not stomach voting for someone guilty of as many crimes as Hillary is hardly suprising.


>Republican leaders since Nixon have worked to attract racists and bigots to the GOP.

And they did this how, exactly? by massively expanding affirmative action? enforcing school busing?

> Republican leaders since Reagan have worked to make bigotry acceptable in society, to fan the flames of nationalism,

I thought it was since Nixon? Now he’s one of the good guys? your rants aren’t even consistent. But please, do tell me how bigotry is more acceptable today than in, say, 1960?

>In the same vein, GOP policies have been failing the working class, the poor, the disadvantaged for decades; yet their voters seldom if ever blame the failure on those policies.

the working class doesn’t go to college, so they don’t benefit from the massive subsidies to higher education. If they try to go, they’re actively discriminated against. They make too much money to qualify for the means tested welfare state, but have to pay relatively high taxes to support it, particularly at the state level. They are far more likely to work in the sorts of brown sector jobs, like mining or pipeline construction, that Democrats are eager to regulate out of existence. There’s a reason the working class has gone overwhelmingly republican in the last few decades, and it has EVERYTHING to do with economic policy.


Loki 11.15.16 at 8:50 pm

Yes, Sebastian H at 3 has it. If Clinton had won and the Democrats took the Senate then the Supreme Court would have had a democrat leaning majority for decades. That would have had huge implications for things that Republicans care deeply about – especially guns and abortion.

Republicans weren’t just voting for Trump, they were voting for the next Supreme Court justice.


Manta 11.15.16 at 8:51 pm

Chris @5
Who wrote these words?
More importantly, would you take political advice for a person who on November 2, 2016 wrote these words?
“Donald Trump is a dud of politician who squandered his advantages in a winnable election. More than just a bad candidate, he has been a catastrophe for the GOP itself. He has destroyed careers, compromised institutions, revealed deep contradictions within the Republican Party, and heightened tensions between its voters and its lawmakers, its activists and its intellectuals. On Nov. 8, nearly 18 months after he announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the saga of Trump will come to a close. If polls are accurate, he will lose. He may even face a landslide, as Hillary Clinton capitalizes on a superior campaign to score victories in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Texas. There’s a slim but real chance that, when the smoke clears, Trump will have led the GOP to a historic defeat, handing the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.”


roger gathmann 11.15.16 at 8:51 pm

Indeed. Trump’s voters were merely a subset of Romney’s. If the R didn’t like Trump, they were much more likely not to vote. As almost always, more people who say they are Dems vote for the R than the opposite. The time spent trying to get out the R for Clinton group – knowing what we know about past elections – against the time spent trying to get out the vote among traditional D voters – those who voted for O. – makes me weep. The commentariat, in their wisdom, has made tons of unsupported or just plain wrong inferences from the numbers. In reality, this election was lost on the nuts and bolts. Bad messaging – Clinton buried her very attractive economic message under a very stilted I’m with her message – and bad GOTV that missed Dem bases. That’s it.
Re the messaging: hey, I would find it a very good thing to have a woman in the White House. In fact, I’m thinking of the new Dems, our best chance might be with Kamala Harris. Similarly, I think it is mostly a good thing for young people to go to college. But the least likely way to sell me magazine subscriptions is to send around a young person who tells me that if I buy the subscription to popular mechanics, I’ll help him or her get to college. I don’t like Popular Mechanics.
I don’t blame Clinton so much, but I have a raging contempt for her campaign “managers” and very very expensive team. And their excuses excuses excuses.


Robert Merkel 11.15.16 at 8:58 pm

Say Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee, and Jill Stein had joined the Democrats and somehow be came the nominee.

I think it’s a pretty slam dunk case that her CV is insufficient to be considered for the Presidency.

How many Democrats would you expect to vote for Romney over Stein?


Soru 11.15.16 at 9:07 pm

Most Republican never-Trumpers trusted in a Republican congress to restrain Trump; after all, look at all the things they have stopped Obama from doing.

Some of them seems to think the Constitution is some variety of phisical law, so any time Trump promised to violate it, he was being an idiot flapping his arms and pretending to fly.


John Quiggin 11.15.16 at 10:49 pm

@25 Jill Stein hasn’t held elective office above municipal level. But, that’s a consequence of her politics, not a disqualification. Your proposed criterion would exclude almost any candidate who would be regarded as left of centre outside the US. Your choice of example suggests the problem with this kind of hypothetical – no one as repulsive as Trump would have a chance with the Democrats. By contrast, Trump was only marginally less repulsive than Ted Cruz, the runner-up.

To respond more directly, I was faced with a comparable situation after the Bligh government’s privatisation program. I voted Green, and did not allocate a major party preference. If the LNP had promised to renationalise, or if Bligh were anywhere near as personally objectionable as Trump, I would have supported them.


John Quiggin 11.15.16 at 11:14 pm

Sebastian @3 and others: I think that’s just another way of restating the point of the OP. The great majority of Republican voters either

1. Are OK with Trump’s racism (a spectrum ranging from the KKK to people who dislike “political correctness” more than racism). This group obviously includes Trump’s supporters in the primary, and most of those who backed Cruz
2. Don’t like racism, but care more about guns, abortion or pro-rich economic policy


mpowell 11.15.16 at 11:25 pm

Merkel@25: I’d vote for Romney in that case. I believe he would have won in a landslide. I’m really quite confident of that actually. But it’s essentially the same question I’ve been asking myself – why does this only apply to Dem candidates? Let’s keep in mind that several Bush family members planned to vote for Clinton. Are the only decent Republicans, even if members of the party elite, so few in number electorally? SCOTUS also looms large. How much better would it be if we have 18 year terms with a new appt every 2? What a huge improvement that would be.


nastywoman 11.16.16 at 12:42 am

The great majority of Republican voters either
1. Are OK with Trump’s racism (a spectrum ranging from the KKK to people who dislike “political correctness” more than racism). This group obviously includes Trump’s supporters in the primary, and most of those who backed Cruz
2. Don’t like racism, but care more about guns, abortion or pro-rich economic policy

3. Don’t take accusations of racism very seriously and have all kind of other issues they care about -(mainly economical ones?) – and anywhoo always will vote ‘Republican’?


anymouse 11.16.16 at 12:45 am

Ok, my bad, that was worse. Reading more about the alt-right. People have reason to be upset.


Consumatopia 11.16.16 at 1:55 am

Couple days ago I thought it was just the obvious–Clinton hate, SCOTUS.

But I reconsidered. Clinton’s disappeared. (Like, seriously, it’s a bit creepy even…). SCOTUS is theirs. So….shouldn’t Republicans who held their nose for the “lesser” evil feel free to speak out now? Shouldn’t they encourage supposedly “saner” GOP officials to try to reign in Trump? I haven’t heard from anyone but McCain (Russia) and Rand Paul (Bolton trial balloon). Shouldn’t these people be yelling about Steve Bannon? Paul Ryan just took Bannon’s side.

I mean, I have to say that I was planning to criticize the hell out of president-elect Clinton. So where are my nose-holding counterparts on the other side? Or even among conservatives who didn’t vote?

It wasn’t that they didn’t like Trump. It’s that they found him embarrassing. Then he won. So he’s not quite so embarrassing now.


BBA 11.16.16 at 2:30 am

Jill Stein isn’t personally repellent enough. I think a closer equivalent would be Alan Grayson, although he’s actually won elective office so maybe not. And I think most Democrats would swallow their pride and vote Grayson over Romney because all that really matters is the Supreme Court/the budget/etc. and all that we want is somebody who’ll stymie the other party.


Sebastian H 11.16.16 at 3:01 am

The Supreme Court really is different.

In theory, a constitution sets bedrock principles that you can count on, that can only be changed through supermajorities. The reason they are theoretically good is because they provide a set of background protections which mean that you can risk giving up power to the other side (whichever side that is) because they can’t go beyond the Constitution without super-majorities. As a result you can let the ebb and flow of regularly scheduled elections go by. You win some, you lose some. The Supreme Court is supposed to be the highly conservative (small ‘c’ conservative) branch which just enforces the Constitutional rules while letting the more political branches hash things out. You change the baseline rules only through super-majorities so if things are going to change you have a lot of lead time to fight it back.

Essentially we’ve given up on the amendment system, so we amend the constitution through the Supreme Court. On the surface it is easier, but if the Court gets things wrong you can’t fix it except through amendment, or by replacing the Court. When a similar thing happens through Congressional or Presidential action, we can count on regular elections to give us a chance to change things. The Court is different. It doesn’t change on a regular schedule, so when things are close (5-4 like last year) the Presidential election really makes the Court ridiculously over important, because you might be able to lock things in for a decade or more.

Conservatives feel that they lost the court in the 60s and 70s and got screwed by it repeatedly. They gained it back under Reagan, but feel that inattention ended up putting more liberal than expected justices on for a long time so they didn’t get the solid majority that they feel their electoral victories deserved. Liberals feel that certain recent rulings were completely unjustified, so they also see the importance (over-importance) of the Court.

This solidifies already highly tribal voting patterns. Especially re: a Scalia replacement this year, and likely a liberal replacement next year, you would have to believe that your candidate was the literal anti-Christ to be willing to let your opponent solidify the amendment making power of the Court for the next 20-30 years.


J-D 11.16.16 at 4:51 am


… the working class … make too much money to qualify for the means tested welfare state …

I don’t understand how that can possibly be true unless you set up a definition of ‘working class’ which deliberately excludes people on the lowest incomes. But why would you do that? If they aren’t working class, what are they, and who is?


Chris "merian" W. 11.16.16 at 8:10 am

Manta #23, your comment is nearly completely opaque to me. Which words? The one in #5? I did. I didn’t quote anything, did I, other than Jamelle Bouie, and I named him. Why would I require political advice? Did John Quiggin write that thing you quoted? If yes, what’s the relevance now? And why would your comment be directed at me specifically and not at anyone who is interested in what he writes? Are you telling me it’s not worth engaging with John Q. after I already decided it’s worth my while?

Otherwise, a lot of the questions asked in the comments are answered by Alesis #17. I quibble with “revulsion”, but it’s right, I overestimated the willingness of voters to cast their ballot with principles in mind that would exclude a candidate. (Not just any principles, but some specific ones I share.) Following this train of thought leads me to the huge problem of communication. Even if the left, or the Democrats, or whoever comes up with fine new ideas that would address what currently isn’t, how people who are now in the Trump mindset switch to even considering them, or for that matter agree on a shared perception of reality? I ‘ve been doing my small-time share arguing with Trump voters in the local media. Not the unchained racists (of the “ape in the WH” variety), nor the ones who are gloating about those ickle liberals that are now running in their safe spaces. (These two seem to be the most active right now in the comment sections.) No, the ones that I think are more of the typical case. Like the guy who writes me “It came down to Trump who is still an unknown quantity in many ways and a dyed-in-the-wool criminal family with lots of connections to the Middle East. Huma Abedin’s parents both work with the Muslim Brotherhood. Think about her in the Oval Office night and day.” I told him he had been sold a pup, basically, and that went over well, pretty much, and then we talked about health care. But … from there to actually accepting the basic cornerstones of the real world, it’s a stretch. (And it’s not just Trump. I also argued with a former housemate, now back in Germany, who has a PhD in the hard sciences, works on climate-related topics and is still in academia. But who otherwise seems to have become a 9/11 truther, and thinks that Trump is vastly preferable to Clinton for peace in the world. )


Soru 11.16.16 at 8:42 am

Of all the various percentages that have been used to explain them result, the one that really stands out is this; 20% of Trump voters don’t think he is fit to be president.

If you went back in time 6 months and told that figure to a Clinton staffer, they would probably say ‘so our strategy is going to work then?’ Then when they see your face, and pay attention to the exact wording of what you just said, they would swear.

At least one right wing message board had a conversation along the lines:

> I really don’t trust Trump with nukes.

> Me neither, but the Secret Service guys are armed, and he isn’t.

He never had a poll lead, and never could have sustained one. But say you were a Republican. You think he is not going to win, and if he did win would be restrained by a Republican congress, and if not by congress by a Republican Supreme Court, and if not by them by some good Republican armed citizen following their duty.

The fact that you think he would be unfit for office starts to seem like a non-sequitor when it comes to deciding how to vote.


Manta 11.16.16 at 8:59 am

I quote a paragraph from Jamelle Bouie.


Collin Street 11.16.16 at 10:41 am

You win some, you lose some.

Actually, you should — if your conservatism is just a precautionary opposition to change — expect a steady stream of unreversed “losses”, and be comfortable with that.


Val 11.16.16 at 11:40 am

James Wimberley @ 18
The USA is a low-turnout democracy: about 58% of the electorate this time. Australia has 81% in national elections with compulsory voting, Italy and Belgium 90% without it, Malta an eye-rubbing 94% without a Kim on the ballot. The low basic turnout presumably magnifies the effect of small swings in sentiment and turnout.

According to the Australian electoral commission, voter turnout in Australia is generally well over 90%

I don’t know where your figures come from unless there was a very sharp drop in the last election, or you are maybe looking at local Council elections?


Val 11.16.16 at 11:49 am

James Wimberley @ 18
I just found a Sydney Morning Herald article that said Australian voter turnout did drop in the 2016 election but it also said “over 9%” of eligible people didn’t vote, which suggests the turnout rate was still over 90%. Maybe you meant to write 91%?

Also it was suggested that the reason turnout was a bit lower than usual is because the AEC had made a big effort to enrol everybody and had maybe enrolled a few people who’d been trying not to vote in previous years.


Lee A. Arnold 11.16.16 at 12:28 pm

1. ENTRANCE (From Cicero: “the subject is introduced and good intentions are assured”): I am talking to a lot of Trump voters, who now feel more open to explain their own reasonings, more sheepish to explain. I find that they many of them think that (to put it in my terms) he is a version of Bernie who is in a position to stick it to the banksters in his own Republican party. “We will see what happens — see ya tomorrow!” is the common refrain in taking leave.

This is a hopeful indication for future political psychology and rhetorical emotion, if you think this sort of thing is important to moving towards a saner future. I surely do, I believe it is paramount. As did Cicero.

2. NARRATION (“state the situations vital to comprehending the topic”). Now I myself rather doubt that Turnip — excuse me, I meant to write, President Trump, the spellchecker is going cattywobbles — is going to do the following: roll over the banksters, simplify the tax code, complete the transition to Obamacare, etc. etc.

The early indications instead are that the Republican Congress is going to roll over him, to do the opposite. Paul Ryan has already spoken twice about phasing out Medicare, since the election.

As for Trump’s competence? Trump’s “aides” didn’t even know that they have to organize their own West Wing; they thought the Obama employees stayed on. So golly, that gives us pause! As for his judgment? He also said things on stage in front of cameras you wouldn’t say in front of children — and that’s a really bad indication. And then there’s the not-so-little fact that Trump and Bannon have both employed Goebbel’s rhetorical methods to come so far — and thus they have whipped-up the deplorable element, to “help” to “deport” the “criminals”. So yes it certainly looks like an early growth of fascism in the US, too.

So, then. “Seeing what happens” may be the mantra of the kinder, gentler tender-noggins, but the Dems should get into gear immediately. They can push Trump hard in the direction of a lot of the things that Trump voters want, while avoiding the blame for his mistakes.

Thus it is, that this moment can be used — for both sides, for almost all, but the haters. The Democrats who want change, lost to the Republicans, but can push the Republicans into many of the same changes, without giving the Republicans much credit for it. Poifect! as they say around here.

Down below are the tools and the method: Bernie needn’t run again, but he can be the blazing point man against the remains of the Democratic banksters. It sounds like he already understands this (he really understands a lot!) and Liz Warren is looking to hop on board.

3. PROPOSITION (“the orator’s dominant idea or thesis”). Tragedy is composed of danger and sorrow.  The sorrow may take a few weeks, but the next danger is immediate.  We should start vocal support of the Sanders and Warren wing of the party, no matter who runs in 2020.

4. DIVISION (“brief outline of points, or concepts, to be demonstrated”). In the primaries, both Trump and Bernie won the rust belt swing states.  What has happened is that Trump won the election because the Democrats nominated Clinton, and many Democratic voters stayed home in those rust belt states.  The Comey dirty tricks letter may have made the final difference, but it’s one of several things that might have done it.  The dissatisfaction with Clinton was evident in the rustbelt Dem primaries, and it was big dissatisfaction.

Voters on both sides wanted change from the elite status quo.  Hillary sadly got stuck with that label.  Many Trump voters don’t like Trump personally, but were willing to go with that chance.  The racist vote helped him, but Trump won in a country that Obama won twice, and Obama won by larger margins.  Trump lost the popular vote by at least 1 million (as of this moment’s counting).  Gore had 1/2 million more than Bush.

Now that the election is over, the Trump voters are wondering whether Trump may be just more of the establishment.  It’s a little early yet, but it looks like it will be business as usual.  Trump doesn’t have enough personal expertise on policy to redirect the government.  Reagan redux.

Yet Trump may be an incurable narcissist who needs love and adulation.  So if Trump wants to satisfy the discontents who elected him, he will have to make policies that the Republican Congress and its lobbyists will not allow.  There is a good chance that the Republican Party is headed into its own shipwreck.

And only 2 years until midterms.

5. CONFIRMATION (“body of evidence, or proofs, supporting the points or speaker’s beliefs”). The Democrats are in a luckier position, very strangely enough.  Having ejected Clinton, their visible backbench is Sanders and Warren, who already command TV airtime by being Senators, and are TV favorites compared to Trump and the Trumpsters.

So get behind them NOW, using our self-aggregating social media to start a sort of spontaneous “shadow government”.  They are brilliantly positioned! But without strong, continuing, very vocal public support. those two are going to be bulldozed away on their own. 

The Democrats, when they lose, get lazy, always hope to work with the winners to make the country a little better.  They did it with Reagan, GHW Bush, even Dubya until well into the war.  This is a big mistake.  The Democrats have to stop this.  The Republicans do not want to play nice.  The Republicans vilified and blocked Bill Clinton and then Obama, the moment they stepped into office.  Fox News was started in 1996 as an ongoing propaganda operation to perform this service for ANY Repub candidate, nationwide, and they immediately began hammering on the Clintons and the Democrats, and it has continued for 20 years.  Enough innuendo “proves” anybody to be dishonest.

6. REBUTTAL (“an antagonist’s potential disagreement with the evidence”). Consider the alternative future history. If Hillary had won, we were going to watch Hillary Clinton face more Congressional gridlock to make her fail (as her husband did; as Obama did) as she tried to salvage the vestiges of the welfare state in her banksterist framework — i.e., trying to win over the financial lobby to influence the Congress to act nice — and so, we were going to watch the voters become more and more frustrated with the leadership of the Democrats (as happened to her husband; as happened to Obama). 
Instead the Democrats have the brief luxury of sitting back and turning the tables: watching Trump fail to get most of the things he promised to his voters, in the face of opposition from his own party in the Congress.  Anything goes wrong, and the Democrats can blame it on the Republicans.   While being poised to demonstrate that we all might have voted for Sanders — and now, Warren or another newbie is ready to take the torch.  The new media environment will allow the spread of real facts in a way that was barely available before, even to Obama.  Bernie’s social media…   It is what you call a “teachable moment” on an epochal scale.

Some may be receptive.  It is important to realize that the Trump voters are Republicans, but not all Right.  Trump voters are still ripe for change.  Reception also gets better when people get a “win” for their team.  They are a bit more sure of their status in the conversation, so they don’t block out other thoughts, and the real details and contradictions of policy become a tiny bit more explainable.  

In addition, Trump voters have become very touchy.   Republicans dimly realize that they have lost their self-claim to the moral high ground: by demonstrating that you can say and do very inappropriate things — nasty things — and still be elected President.  They know that the kids have taken note of this:  So much for teaching values to the kids!   Quite a stain on history, and they’ve got no one to blame but themselves.  Social media reveals that many Republicans are already hurting to try to explain this to themselves. (A lot of these people will need a therapist so let’s expand Obamacare.)

7. CONCLUSION (“synopsis of evidence, last appeal to the audience’s emotions, and rhetorical beauty”). Sum: Don’t take this by giving up.  The Democrats have ejected the Clintons, while keeping the majority of voters. They now have a chance at ejecting the rest of their banksters. At the same time that the Republicans have taken on objectionable baggage that can’t keep his promises and may finally rip them apart.


engels 11.16.16 at 1:30 pm

Trump played the “strict father” archetype to the hilt, while Hillary played the “nurturing parent”

Trump played the stupid, violent and abusive traditional patriarch; Hillary played the emotionally absent, self-centred and controlling upper-middle class mother


reason 11.16.16 at 2:44 pm

And this all proves that electing individuals instead of governments is a lot of the problem. Personality has hardly anything to do with what government is actually about.


Kiwanda 11.16.16 at 4:06 pm

The racism expressed @5 is offensive, but I’m happy (really) to see that it passes the new moderation policy.

The discussion in @24 is clearly regarding “comments on why some Democrats switched or didn’t vote”, but I’m happy (really) to see that it got past the policy expressed @14.

However, the inconsistency and randomness of the moderation is discouraging.


roger gathmann 11.16.16 at 4:39 pm

I have been puzzled by the phenomenon of liberal thumbsuckers singling out the Green party for special rage. For instance, Krugman – whose been unreadable this season – immediately blamed the Greens. To my mind, this is nuts. Before the election year even began, you could go back over several election years and predict pretty much that third parties would achieve a certain percentage of the vote. That should be baked into your strategy, instead of seen as a contingency that gives you an excuse.
I think one of the reasons for the irrational anger is that politically active liberals have more acquaintances who might be considering the Greens. My relatives in Gwinnett county, Georgia, probably have never heard of her. She is minor. And Gary Johnson is known solely for the same reason that Cheech and Chong used to be famous – cause of his association with pot.
I’ve been shocked by the way the DC Dem establishment has decided to issue excuses for this election, instead of committing collective hari kari, or at least apologizing. The conference with Podesta after the election was headlined by the Politico, Clinton aides blame election loss on everyone but themselves. That’s for sure. They didn’t even offer a rerun. Meanwhile, really disgusting figures like Peter Daou and David Brock are going to be rolling in the dough. It is the Dem infrastructure that broke.


Suzanne 11.16.16 at 5:18 pm

@43: The Mary Tyler Moore character in “Ordinary People” was running for president?


Chris "merian" W. 11.16.16 at 5:35 pm

Manta, #38: This explains why I was unclear. I didn’t quote Bouie as “political advice”, but for a snappy formulation of an assessment that many of my American friends who aren’t white seem to share (though I don’t think “consensus” is quite the definitive term one would choose). I don’t know about readers here, or your own friends who are POC in America, but a good number of mine, especially the ones who are GLBT and/or have children, are currently looking at every single white stranger wondering if that person would be happy to see them gone.


anon/portly 11.16.16 at 6:24 pm

In part, the willingness of the Republican Party to unify behind Trump reflects deep personal hatred of Clinton. This hatred is real, if difficult to explain. Clinton is a cautious, compromising politician who has frequently blurred the line between political action and personal enrichment. But in a country where the majority of elected politicians are millionaires, and the revolving door between politics and business has been in operation for decades, she’s no better or worse than the average politician, including past aspirants to the presidency.

In any case, there would certainly have been plenty of hatred for Sanders (a socialist Jew, originally from New York), or for anyone else the Democrats ran. There have been few US leaders more appealing to the world as a whole than Barack Obama, but the vitriol aimed at him has been stunning.

I would argue with almost every point made in this section of the piece.

Final Gallup pre-election unfavorable ratings, last 4 elections:

Trump 61%
Clinton 52%
Romney 43%
Obama, Obama, McCain, Bush, Kerry 35-40%

Is there something wrong with these numbers? Do they reflect the views of Americans accurately, or not? If they are accurate, they suggest that there would not have been “plenty of hatred” for a different Democratic nominee. There would or could have been the usual amount, not the Hillary amount.

Then, is it really true that Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, Obama and Obama “frequently blurred the line between political action and personal enrichment,” as Hillary is described as doing? If not, why then isn’t she just “worse” instead of “no better or worse” than a typical Democratic nominee, as the article seems to suggest? (I may be uninformed here, I guess).

Finally, has the vitriol aimed at Obama really been stunning? Yes, there are the Republican crazies, but as people like Bob Somerby tirelessly (and pointlessly, I guess, since the facts here don’t fit the desired narrative) point out, if anything the vitriol aimed at Bill was actually greater.

Now I am aware of the view that the negative attitudes Americans have toward Hillary are simply “incorrect” in some sense. But one should at least acknowledge that they have them, especially when one is actually suggesting (“frequently blurs the line between political action and personal enrichment”) that these views are not wholly without merit!

If the section quoted above was re-written in a more sober fashion, my view is that then the preceding section might then require a touch of nuance also.

On the face of it, this is a surprising outcome. Trump did and said much that ought to have made him unacceptable to what have been seen as the core constituencies of the Republican Party. His obvious lack of religious belief and flagrantly immoral behaviour ought to have provoked defections from evangelical religions. His denunciation of trade and willingness to engage in massive public spending went against decades of Republican orthodoxy. Added to this, his overt racism and misogyny ought to have been disqualifying for the supposedly large number of Republicans committed to diversity and social equality.

Most striking, perhaps, was the absence of any significant movement among the “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” voters who play a role in US political mythology similar to that of Western Sydney voters in Australia. These voters should have supported Clinton en masse, but were nowhere to be seen.

Well, first of all we don’t have the exact number of “Romney voters who didn’t vote for Trump.” Was it 5%? 10%? 15%? If it was, say, 10%, 6 million or so, even then maybe quite a few socially liberal and fiscally conservative voters did vote for Hillary. However if you think about for a second, perhaps some of them also voted for Obama. Or for Obama twice. Or for Kerry…. On the other hand, how many of them understand that Hillary/Republican Congress is a much better recipe for fiscal conservatism than Trump/Republican Congress? Here is information they (and their Democrat counterparts) may not possess. It wouldn’t surprise me if Australian voters were more knowledgeable, as a whole.

Finally, as to Trump’s “obvious lack of religious belief and flagrantly immoral behavior” and “overt racism and misogyny,” I think the answer here is pretty simple. Trump’s unfavorable rating in the Gallup poll cited above was 61%.

But Hillary’s was 52%. Did the Democrats nominate the one person who could negate Trump’s biggest disadvantage? I wonder, since my guess is that US voters are (comparatively) uninformed and perhaps (comparatively) insular and tribal, living in the US bubble, far from the rest of the world, whether in our elections the character (or backstory?) of the candidates doesn’t become somewhat more important than in other countries, in motivating or not motivating the voters on the two sides. So I think the suggestion that Trump’s character didn’t affect the outcome much, or as much as it should have, is not necessarily true; but Hillary’s character had an effect also.


cassander 11.16.16 at 10:03 pm

@J-D 11.16.16 at 4:51 am

>I don’t understand how that can possibly be true unless you set up a definition of ‘working class’ which deliberately excludes people on the lowest incomes. But why would you do that? If they aren’t working class, what are they, and who is

The working class, you know, works for a living. 70% of whites make more than 35k a year, half make more than 56k a year, a huge share of those that don’t are only temporarily out of work, either between jobs or in school.


J-D 11.17.16 at 9:32 am


I understand how you can have a definition of ‘working class’ that includes people who aren’t in the lowest income bands; but I don’t understand how you can have a definition of ‘working class’ that excludes everybody in those lowest income bands. The working class (on some reasonable definitions) includes some people whose incomes are too high for them to qualify for means-tested benefits; but on any reasonable definition it includes some people whose incomes are low enough to qualify for those benefits. If the people whose incomes are so low that they qualify for means-tested benefits are not ‘working class’, what are they? What makes you think that nobody who works for a living has an income that low?


reason 11.17.16 at 10:00 am

Did John Quiggin really write
“Older ideas for which the time has now arrived include a universal basic income and a substantial reduction in working hours.”

I thought he was implacably opposed. Has he run out of alternatives.


reason 11.17.16 at 10:04 am

When I read thinking on the left, I see the labour/social democratic parties as the parties of the past (wedded to a growing industrial economy) and the greens as being the parties of the future (looking to a post-industrial sustainable economy). Is John Quiggin now moving his support more to the greens and away from the social democrats? Perhaps he needs to be clear about the evolution in his own thinking.


reason 11.17.16 at 10:09 am

I only see the greens and social democrats as being in opposition to one another in the dysfunctional first past the post world – otherwise they are rival wings of a natural but (as we have seen in Germany) not exclusive coalition.


Layman 11.17.16 at 11:43 am

“Finally, has the vitriol aimed at Obama really been stunning?”

Are you posting from Mars?


sherparick 11.17.16 at 3:13 pm

Professor Quiggin, enjoyed your article, but I guess you just have had to live here the last 25 years and heard and seen the campaign of hate against Hillary Clinton by the Right Wing Industrial Infotainment Complex and know why Republicans and Republican leaning independents hate this woman. That is 47% of the electorate and about 59% of the White Vote. The sad part is that the NY Times, Associated Press, and the FBI did their best the last 18 months to lend an air of credibility to the right wing portrait of a corrupt, murderous, lying, Medusa (the misogyny was always there) that the Rush Limbaughs of the media have portrayed for the last 25 years. They know she is guilty, that why they want her “locked up.”

As for why Trump won the Upper Midwest, why Western Pennylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin voters, mostly white, swung from Obama to Trump in sufficient numbers to flip those states, it is to understand that economic recovery has mostly skip the long standing secular decline which affected those areas as that they feel Obama failed ot address and did not see Clinton as addressing.


anon/portly 11.17.16 at 4:43 pm

“Are you posting from Mars?”

Well, first of all, isn’t this the kind of pointless comment the new comment policy was meant to address? But anyway, since Layman makes no argument of his own, vis-à-vis vitriol aimed at different Democrats, so it’s hard to know exactly what his point is, let me ask him, does he think the vitriol aimed at Obama was actually worse than the vitriol aimed at Bill Clinton? If so, I would say I am posting from the land of unselective memory.

For that matter, has the vitriol aimed at Obama really been all that much worse than the vitriol aimed at Gore, Kerry, and Hillary Clinton? (Considering the much shorter time they were onstage, of course). For that matter, all that much worse than would have been aimed at Bernie Sanders?

For that matter, I don’t know if the vitriol aimed at Obama was all that much worse than the vitriol aimed at Bush and Cheney. (Of course the vitriol portion of the criticism aimed at Bush and Cheney might be somewhat invisible to many CT readers, I would delicately and no doubt incorrectly suggest).

Maybe my error is thinking “stunning” means “out of the ordinary” and not “same old, same old.”


James Wimberley 11.17.16 at 5:20 pm

Val #40, 41: I got my numbers from Wikipedia, to which I linked. IIRC theirs is an average over a fairy long period, which is consistent with one election at 91%.

The statistical correction does not affect my point. A good number of democracies manage to achieve turnouts far higher than that of the USA, with and without compulsory voting.


cassander 11.17.16 at 6:29 pm

@J-D 11.17.16 at 9:32 am

>I understand how you can have a definition of ‘working class’ that includes people who aren’t in the lowest income bands; but I don’t understand how you can have a definition of ‘working class’ that excludes everybody in those lowest income bands.

Because those people are not working and thus, not working class. fully 70% of those in the lowest quintile, which roughly, but not exactly, equates to those below the poverty line, don’t work at all, according to the census.

>What makes you think that nobody who works for a living has an income that low?

the census. what’s your source?


Chris "merian" W. 11.18.16 at 2:40 am

J-D and cassander, leaving aside your wider points: There seems to be an unexamined premise regarding whether people on means-tested benefits are typically in work or not. This question can’t be solved by looking at household incomes, but by looking at the list of available (FSVO) means-tested benefits. For the US:

* Earned income tax credit. Arguably one of the more successful benefits to boost the economic agency of low earners (though at the same time a subsidy that enables salary dumping, natch). By definition, the beneficiaries are earning an income. Claim limit for a single person household was recently about $15,000 (that would be lower second quintile), for a single earner with one child up to $39,000, that is, beneficiaries are spread over the lower half of the household income distribution.
* Food stamps. That’s more of a mix. The WIC ones often go to single women with small children, and without available childcare and unaddressed educational needs they are often not in work. OTOH, I certainly know beneficiaries where there’s two parents and one does work. SNAP is almost proverbial for supporting people in low-paying jobs (retail, adjunct professors…). So, both non-working and working poor benefit.
* Free and subsidised school lunches. No hard data, but percentage of beneficiaries and expected unemployment levels in the same neibourhoods, probably a similar mix as as food stamps?
* Programs put in place by state out of TANF block grants. Where I am, that is for example very low cost child care, whereby the provider is directly paid by the state. This program, just as an example, makes working a prerequisite for receiving service.
* Other cash benefits have become rare. They probably mostly go to people out of work.

The household income table posted by cassander doesn’t really contradict this. Nearly a third (32% by household) in the lowest quintile appear to be retirement age. You don’t stop being working-class when you are beyond working age. Out of the rest, about half have an earner and half don’t (assuming the most common case for households with earners is exactly one earner).


Val 11.18.16 at 4:08 am

James Wimberley @ 58
Well just goes to show you shouldn’t put too much faith in Wikipedia, I guess. Here are the actual figures from the Australian Electoral Commission

As you can see, the Australian voter turnout in federal elections has been over 90% since compulsory voting was introduced in the 1920s.

Have no idea where Wikipedia could have got their figure from.


J-D 11.18.16 at 8:29 am


What’s my source? It’s your source. Thank you for providing it to demonstrate that I’m right and you’re wrong.

I notice that your definition automatically excludes anybody not currently employed from the definition of ‘working class’; that’s a highly eccentric definition; the way the term ‘working class’ is typically understood, you don’t cease being part of the working class just because you can’t currently find a job — or, as Chris “merian” W. has pointed out, because you have retired; but —

Even accepting your eccentric definitional ruling that nobody who doesn’t currently have a job can be counted as part of the working class, the table you’ve linked to shows that in one-third of households with incomes in the lowest quintile, the householder is working. That’s a big demographic chunk consisting of people in the lowest income band who can still qualify as working class even by your definition. So, on your own showing, you’re wrong to say that no working-class people can be found at the lowest income levels.


Guy Harris 11.18.16 at 8:35 am


Have no idea where Wikipedia could have got their figure from.

The reference for the table is “Statistics from Mark N. Franklin’s “Electoral Participation”, found in Controversies in Voting Behavior (2001). Includes only “free” elections”. I calculated an average from the reference you gave, updated the Wikipedia page to give the 91% average, and added your citation as a reference. Whether that will survive somebody else’s edit is another matter.

And I don’t know where Franklin got that figure from (I don’t have the book handy, and the only ebook source I could find in a quick search didn’t give me that wonderful feeling of “trust me you won’t get h4xx0red if you download it”).


soru 11.18.16 at 11:18 am

> You don’t stop being working-class when you are beyond working age.

Subjectively you may well continue to identify as working class, but objectively your economic interests are the same as anyone else living on a depleting stock of financial capital. For example, lower wages to you are an unmitigated benefit; wages are something you pay, not something you receive. A minimum wage law is not a solution to your poverty, but a threat to your prosperity.

Obviously, the Republican base vote is the 30 to 40% of the electorate that has assets of greater value than their cumulative future wage labor, and so financially benefit when welfare and wages drop. What seems likely is that the Trump shift is capitalists _without sufficient money to live well_ starting to identify as such.

Partly of this is could be caused by the drop in the prices of goods (due to globalization) that makes a non-working class existence seem in reach to many. If only the economy was stronger, they could afford as much now in retirement as they did 10 years ago when working 50 hours a week.

The rest is identity issues, largely racially-based . A black millionaire would likely feel bad about voting for lower tax and welfare; they have solidarity the median black voter, who is not rich. Similarly, when racial identities are pushed to the forefront by both sides of the campaign, a white welfare recipient feels stronger sympathy for the median white voter.

Who is a Republican.


John Quiggin 11.18.16 at 11:59 am

Reason @52-54 I find these comments mystifying, given that I’ve been posting on these issues for years

“implacably opposed to UBI”.

“moving from social democrats to greens”


Layman 11.18.16 at 12:01 pm

anon/portly: “…since Layman makes no argument of his own…”

Did you make an argument? I can see a claim, but not an argument. I get that you think there’s nothing out of the ordinary with the vitriol hurled at Obama, but I think you’re wrong. Now what?


reason 11.18.16 at 2:45 pm

John Quiggin
Thanks for the links, although I’m not sure I agree with so much of it. My general view of the response to UBI is that it might actually increase GDP growth (especially regionally and in services as money becomes less concentrated), and that although full time work might decrease it would probably be offset by an increase in part time work. And I think it should be renamed national dividend, be linked to resource and pollution taxes initially and be phased in (while competing things like basic deduction, unemployment benefits, government pensions and other welfare are reduced in step). And I think there is no way to avoid having residence restrictions on it. And as for cosmopolitan-social-democracy – I’m not sure how that can work except in regional agreements (like in Europe or for instance Australia/New Zealand) or how it relates to Green parties.


John Quiggin 11.18.16 at 3:46 pm

is it really true that Humphrey, McGovern, Carter, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, Obama and Obama “frequently blurred the line between political action and personal enrichment,” as Hillary is described as doing? If not, why then isn’t she just “worse” instead of “no better or worse” than a typical Democratic nominee, as the article seems to suggest?

A fair point. The candidates I had in mind were either Dems who didn’t get the nomination (Dean, Edwards) or Repubs who did (Dole, GW Bush, McCain), not to mention most of the 2012 and 2016 losers . Apart from the Clintons, the Dems have done a pretty good job avoiding this kind of candidate.

I guess this sums up my theory of Clinton hatred. The Repubs hated Bill because he was so like them, and yet was on the wrong side. That transferred to Hillary.


Chris "merian" W. 11.18.16 at 4:09 pm

sory #64, on retired people: “but objectively your economic interests are the same as anyone else living on a depleting stock of financial capital. For example, lower wages to you are an unmitigated benefit[…]”

This is only true if old people aren’t part of families or other groups that share and trade resources (free time used for child care vs. room and board or help with home repair bills for example), and if retirement income isn’t to a significant part financed out of contributions made by those currently receiving a salary (that is, growing and shrinking with salaries). IOW, if there aren’t either informal or formal transfers between the generations.


roger gathmann 11.18.16 at 7:00 pm

If Clinton had gotten O’s numbers in Philadelphia, Scranton, Erie, Detroit and Milwaukee, she’d be president. So I am thinking, what is common to all these places? Deindustrialization? Massive incarceration of urban youths? Police shootings that go unpunished? At the nuts and bolts level, what message did these towns see on tv ads? I’ve read that the GOTV in PA MI and WI sucked for Clinton. What I don’t understand is why her internal pollers and campaign management didn’t just pull a page out of O’s campaign in the Midwest, which heavily emphasized support for industry, and sotto voce, the end of mass incarceration. And stopped negative ads that didn’t work, especially ones dealing with ‘qualification’ – the ultimate DC turnon, with no real effect on the America outside DC – and talked about job losses. Well, the question is academic. Still it is definitely time to find go across the map, find where O did well and HRC did badly, and focus on those areas. And not to waste time focusing on where the Rs did well under McCain, Romney and Trump.


Suzanne 11.18.16 at 10:09 pm

“Apart from the Clintons, the Dems have done a pretty good job avoiding this kind of candidate.

I guess this sums up my theory of Clinton hatred. The Repubs hated Bill because he was so like them, and yet was on the wrong side. That transferred to Hillary.”

@68: Gore’s oil connections, which are very Republican-like when you think about it, have never been terribly savory. Kerry has displayed a handy knack for marrying rich women, which does save him the trouble of the more obvious forms of political huckstering.

Actually, Bill Clinton has been accused of many things, but until fairly late in his public life greed wasn’t one of them. He was known in Arkansas as being generally indifferent to material gain. Hillary was always the chief breadwinner and the one who worried about money (not saying that constitutes avarice or acquisitiveness). Both of the Clintons come from families of means that were modest at best, unlike some of the candidates you list and both of them have had to make their own money. Which is not to defend everything they’ve ever done to line their pockets, but just saying.


soru 11.18.16 at 10:23 pm

@69: true.

Probably relevant is that the residents of the non-barking states are those most likely to have sons and daughters who take a flight once a year to visit. Which limits the opportunities for informal transfer.

Definitely relevant is that the wage inequality and labor force participation rates of 40 years ago mean that current female retirees are very likely to be formally economically dependent on a man.

So Melania Trump is a closer identity figure than Hilary Clinton. And so rejecting Trump turned out to be difficult for the same kind of reason that presumably explains why she is still married to him.

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